US Visa Interview Waiver or Dropbox program was introduced in 2012. Since then several thousands of US visa interview applicants have utilized the dropbox in India.
Note: If you qualify for dropbox, you wouldn’t be able to schedule an visa interview. I have heard conflicting reports on this. But, as per experiences shared by few, there’s no option to appear for interview if you are eligible for dropbox.
In this article lets look at some aspects of getting US visa stamp via Dropbox:
- The USA Visa Interview Waiver Program – Dropbox in India
- Dropbox Eligiblity and Qualifications
- Pros and Cons of Dropbox
- Overview of Dropbox Process
- Administrative Processing – 221g via Dropbox
- Documents Required for Dropbox
- Dropbox Processing Times
- Is dropbox canceled?
- FAQ’s About Visa Waiver Interviews
USA Visa Interview Waiver Program – Dropbox
In March 2012, US Embassy announced Visa Interview Waiver program for certain visa categories for qualified individuals. Later, the dropbox program (Visa Interview program) in India have been expanded to include H1B Visa, H4 Visa, L1A, L1B, B1/B2 Visa and F1 Visa.
The US Visa renewal application must be within the same classification as the previous visa. If the previous visa is annotated with the words “clearance received,” that applicant is not eligible for a dropbox.
Dropbox in India – Qualifications
Eligibility for dropbox depends on your current and previous visa status. Here’s q quick overview of steps required to find out if you qualify for dropbox in India:
- Complete DS-160
- Create an Account to Schedule Visa Interview at USTravelDocs
- Complete your profile and start the process to schedule the interview
- You will be notified at the end of the questionnaire if you are eligible for the dropbox
So, what questions do that ask to find the eligibility?
Eligibility Criteria for all applicants except child below 14 years and applicant above 80 years of age:
- I have a previous U.S. visa in the same class as the visa for which I wish to renew
- My most recent visa was issued in India
- I received my visa after August 1, 2008
- My prior visa is not annotated “Clearance Received” or “Department Authorization”.
- My most recent visa (in the same class for which I am applying) was issued on or after my 14th birthday
- I have no refusals for a visa in any category after my most recent visa issuance
- If I am applying for an H or L (individual) or R visa, my prior visa in the same class is still valid or expired within the last 12 months.
- If I am applying for any other class of visa, my prior visa in the same class is still valid or expired within the last 12 months.
- Note: Blanket L1 visa applicants do not qualify for the Interview Waiver, but Blanket L2 spouses are eligible.
- If I am applying for an F visa, am continuing as student at same school for which my previous visa was issued.
- If I am applying for a J visa, my current DS-2019 is issued by the same institution as the institution listed on my previous visa
Note: Using the interview waiver or drop box service does not guarantee visa issuance. In some cases, you may be required to appear for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, for example, if you submit an incomplete and/or inaccurate application. Submit your application well in advance of your planned travel to allow for the possibility that a visa interview will be necessary.
If you meet the requirements for interview waiver – dropbox
- Schedule an appointment at OFC for fingerprints and photo
Documents Required for Dropbox Submission
If you qualify for dropbox submission, you will receive a dropbox submission letter containing a document checklist. Print two copies of the dropbox confirmation letter and insert the following documents into the dropbox package, then seal the package:
- One photograph that was taken within the last six months (conforming to the guidelines)
- Supporting documentation in original and one photocopy required for your visa type
- Children applying through IWP or drop-box should submit photocopies of their parents’ visas.
- Dropboxconfirmation letter
- Current passport that has a validity of at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S. (all categories)
- Passport containing most recently issued U.S. visa;
- The DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application confirmation sheet (all categories)
- Original MRV fee receipt for the visa processing (all categories)
- One photograph on a white background, 2 x 2 inches (all categories)
- Copy of I-20 (F1/F2, M1/M2)
- Original DS-2019 (J1/J2)
- Copy of SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt (principal F, M, J)
- Copy of your CDC (Continuous Discharge Certificate) book/employment contract (for C1/D)
- A copy of I-797 Approval Notice for H1B and H4.
- Don’t use the same photo from the previous visa stamped on the passport.
- If you wear glasses, then for visa, you should remove them (new requirement since 2016)
Advantages of Dropbox
Dropbox has both Pros and Cons. Let’s look at some advantages of Visa renewal via dropbox:
- Saves Time and Money: If you are going to India for US Visa Renewal, and qualify for dropbox, it could save you one day of stay in the city were U.S. Consulate is located.
- No In-Person Interview: Attending Visa interview is not something everyone is fond of. Getting U.S. Visa stamped in the passport without in-person visa interview is double sweet. I’m sure you agree on this.
- Save Resources in the US Consulate: Resources required to manage the operations at the U.S. consulate is not to be taken lightly in busier U.S. Consulates. If they can process visa renewal without In-Person Interview, they can handle more new visa applicants and lower wait times to get appointments for those who are required to attend the in-person visa interview.
Disadvantages of Dropbox: Administrative Processing (221g)
Administrative Processing is the dreaded and most feared word for U.S. Visa interview attendees. Administrative Processing (221g), I think this is going to be the biggest disadvantage of Visa Renewal via dropbox.
Dropbox H1B Visa Experience
Here’s an example of documents requested by the U.S. Consulate for 221g on H1B Visa Renewal. As you can see, they have selected pretty much all the documents in the checklist 221g form checklist.
What does this leave you with? Scrambling to collect all the documents.
What if you working as Full-Time Employee and don’t have a client letter?
What if you End Client will not provide a Client Letter?
Now, a number of people involved in the process to collect the required documentation just went up from you to your spouse, manager, HR, Immigration Attorney and others.
Then, you have to make a trip back to the U.S. Consulate once you have the required documentation and attend the interview or email them to the specific email address as suggested to you case.
In meantime, your trip to India just became a roller coaster ride. In the end, things should work out in your favor, but there’s going to be some sleepless nights in this due process.
Dropbox with 221g Processing Times
- Day 1: Submit passport and documents at OFC
- Day 2 to 3: Case Created and Administrative Processing
- Day 3 to 7: Collect required documents and attend interview
- Day 4 to 10: Visa Approval and Passport Pickup
When you have 221g on dropbox and required to attend the interview, typically you will be asked to walk-in to the consulate with 221g slip without scheduling the visa interview.
As you can see dropbox has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We don’t know how many US visa renewal applicants results in Administrative Processing but considering the advantages it offers, even 10% 221(g) would result in much faster and smoother operations at U.S. consulate (my guess).
Dropbox Processing Time
Processing time for visa renewal via dropbox depends on 221g and regular processing time for the specific consulate.
Here’s typical and expected processing time for dropbox
- Day 1: Submit passport and documents at OFC
- Day 2 to 3: Case Created and Administrative Processing
- Day 3 to 5: Case Issued
If you don’t get 221g on your dropbox visa application, you should get the visa status changed to “Issued” within the posted US Visa Processing Time. One recent H1B Visa and H4 Visa renewal via dropbox were issued the next day and passport was collected in 3 days.
Is Dropbox canceled in India
Is Dropbox Cancelled or discontinued due to Trump’s Executive Order in India? This is stated in the Travel Ban “Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.”
Short Answer – No. You can continue to use the dropbox option in India if you qualify.
FAQ’s About Visa Waiver Interview
1. I’m going to attend H4 visa interview and I wanted to know if I can apply for dropbox without my spouse?
Yes. You can go for dropbox when you are are traveling along for stamping. As long as US Travel Docs site says that you are eligible, you shouldn’t have any problem. When you go through the process of scheduling the interview appointment, if you get a message like this “Congrats you qualify for Dropbox”, then you are eligible for dropbox in one of 11 locations in India.
2. My previous H1B visa was stamped in Canada. Would I be eligible for dropbox in Mumbai Consulate for H1B renewal stamping?
One condition for visa interview waiver is that your previous visa should be stamped in the same U.S. consulate. Under that criteria, you will not be able to get dropbox option in Mumbai. Plus, there’s no dropbox in Canada if you appear the for the second time in the same consulate in the Canada.
3. I’m going for H1B Visa renewal and I’m eligible for dropbox. Should I submit original I-797 approval notice for the dropbox?
You don’t have to submit the original I-797 Approval Notice when submitting the Passport after OFC. I believe you may need original only for J visa interview. But, you can validate that during OFC appointment. In either case, you are required to carry the original and photocopy of all the required documents for OFC.
Share Your Dropbox Experience
Did you get your US visa renewed via Dropbox, share your dropbox experience.